Stuart Lancaster will consider his future as coach after Saturday’s crushing defeat by Australia which ensured England will be the first main host to fail to reach the knock-out stage of rugby’s showpiece tournament.
Flyhalf Bernard Foley did most to break English hearts by racking up 28 points, including two sparkling tries, as Australia booked a place in the quarter-finals and took Wales through with them from Pool A.
But the question of whether Lancaster had the necessary tactical expertise loomed large long before former England captain Will Carling last week slammed the coach for treating players as “schoolboys” in a “classroom environment”.
“At the end of the day, I’m the head coach and we didn’t get out of the pool”.
“The better team won and put us under pressure in all aspects of the game”.
“We knew how tough this group was going to be right from the start, and not just with England, Australia and ourselves, because Fiji are a tough proposition as well”, the New Zealander said.
Michael Cheika has made taking one game at a time the underpinning theme of Australia’s World Cup, so there was little surprise that he brushed off a devastatingly brutal victory over England as “just another step”.
The simple truth is England are nowhere near as good as they thought they were.
Asked if he felt Lancaster should continue as England head coach, Gatland said: “That’s not my decision”.
“In the final analysis we simply haven’t been good enough, on or off the field, at this World Cup and the way forward will be just that little bit easier if we admit that straight away”.
“The future of Stuart Lancaster and others must not be allowed to hijack this tournament”, he said.
“It was the group of hell, we can take the shackles off now”, he added. We’ve had a few fantastic supporters and we feel we’ve let them down. They play next Saturday to decide the top dogs in the pool.
The Australia coach could have been forgiven a hearty celebration having emerged from the fevered atmosphere of a hostile Twickenham with a record-breaking 33-13 win that moved them safely into the quarter-finals.
“You’ve got to try to be consistent and yeah, okay, that went well for us tonight but we’ve got be consistent with it again next week”.
“I remember a similar situation with Martin Johnson, with the experiences he had in the past and playing in three World Cups and obviously going through 2011”.
“We’ve still got so much to do”.
He hasn’t delivered results – England has finished second in the Six Nations in each of his four years in charge, and will complete its worst World Cup finish – but it was accepted this squad would be better equipped for a crack at the 2019 title, than this one. “We still have another week to go but, as I said during the week, the responsibility and accountability rests with me”.